Social Norms and Values in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

2819 Words Mar 24th, 2014 12 Pages
David Davidson

Professor Jane Doe
English 326
29 January 2014
Social Norms and Values in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen makes brilliant use of her characters and their situations to paint an image of society in the early 19th century. At the same time, the norms and values which she presents bear some remarkable similarities to today’s world. Social norms are defined by Kendall, Murray, and Linden in Sociology in Our Times as “established rules of behavior or standards of conduct” (664), while a social value is defined as “a collective idea about what is right or wrong, good or bad, and desirable or undesirable in a particular culture” (668). These terms can be used fairly interchangeably; they both
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Both ladies and gentlemen were expected to be considerate to others, respectful towards those less powerful than themselves, courteous, and in control of their manners and appearance at all times. Flaunting one’s power was seen as rude and arrogant, and control over outward emotion was imperative. One of the primary examples of how Austen shows the values associated with a gentleman occurs with regard to Elizabeth’s early reactions to Darcy. Although rich, Darcy’s behavior proves that money is not enough to ensure respect. In spite of the initial admiration he is given at the Longbourn ball, his popularity waned quickly:
He was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend. (14)
Darcy’s pride and his sense of superiority are considered rude and ungentlemanly behavior, and no amount of money or fine looks can save him from falling into disgrace with the people of Hertfordshire. Later, when Darcy first proposes to Elizabeth, she shocks him when she angrily exclaims that “had [he] behaved in a more gentleman-like manner” (168), then she may have felt
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